(...) The mysteries of the dead matter and the continual rebirth of nature have been appealing to natural scientists for a long time. While studying the driving forces causing these incessant changes of the world, scientists coined a term that is gradually becoming a matter of common knowledge, as well. This term is entropy and it is used mostly within two fields of science, in physics and information theory. (…)

The second law of thermodynamics says that if an (isolated) system is not in thermodynamical equilibrium, the physical processes in it take such a direction as to increase the entropy of the system.
It is an everyday experience that e.g. the lukewarm champagne, which has come to a thermal equilibrium with its environment, is not going to cool again automatically, standing on the table, that is to say that the natural processes occurring spontaneously are characterised by a sort of irreversibility. This irreversibility is one of the most basic phenomena of our world. It is effective in the natural forces destroying and reshaping our environment but it is also present in the cycle of physiological processes, which connects birth, ageing and death undisruptably. Irreversibility determines a definite direction for every event happening in nature from the cosmic scales to the world of elementary particles. After all, entropy determines the direction of time for us, dividing the course of our existence into ranges of past and future, where we cannot go back from the present and cannot jump forward. (…)

As the dispersion of statistical ensembles in various microstates can also be interpreted as molecular disorder, entropy can also serve as the measure of the disorder prevailing in physical systems: the more chaotic a microphysical system is molecularly, the higher is its entropy. The idea of entropy, connecting disorder or dispersion with irreversibility, represents the relentless logic of nature, according to which the inevitable disintegration of structures is encoded in the build of the world from the outset. Although every element of our world is breaking up unavoidably, and death is in store for living beings and disintegration for lifeless objects, all this does not lead to utter disorder or sheer chaos; transformation always implies the creation of new structures.

This is illuminated by the way information theory approaches entropy where the term was introduced there to describe the amount of information in any set of symbols. Entropy appears here as the term describing the degree of uncertainty arising from the lack of information. Considering the example of partners sending and receiving messages, it measures the amount of information that the receiver does not have before the message arrives. The more new information the message lets the recipient have, the higher is the entropy of the message. In our everyday interactions with one another and with objects, we develop an intricate network of communication channels, which we continually modify and reorganize according to our current activities. Viewing works of art is also a communication process, in which a sort of dialogue develops between the work of art and the spectator: the latter asks the picture questions and it answers them.

Making the term entropy an artistic concept raises just the relationship between the spectator and the aesthetic object to be the topic. Through the presentation of the various meanings of the word above, we tried to demonstrate the complexity of this mechanism of pictorial reception. We can see two important phases of the paintings of the series: on the one hand, the portraits 'in the usual sense' and, on the other hand, the works created and remodelled out of portraits. The experience of the encounter with the portraits is instinct with the duality of symbolic and pictorial interpretation, where the pictures cannot be understood 'definitively' from a symbolic point of view and another kind of understanding that reveals the 'pictorial sense' is also necessary. Namely, our eyes always catch something in the portraits that cannot be crystallised in words and condensed in conceptual knowledge. Some pictorial sense, which cannot be replaced by a text, remains and it disintegrates and entangles the life stories, associated with the models of the portraits in our imagination. The objective-symbolic interpretation of the paintings cannot manage this pictorial sense, though its presence arises just from the specific possibilities that the art of painting provides for forming the material.
Through the transformed portraits, Gyécsek questions just the exclusiveness of this objective-symbolic interpretation which prevails too strongly in aesthetic tradition. The paintings created from the mixed parts of portraits try to assert the pictorial sense, which cannot be approached in a conceptual way, as against the interpretation searching merely the symbolic layers. As our visual capacity, which recognises shapes and objects, tries to piece together the disarranged order on the cut-up canvasses again, it fails every time. The disintegrating material structures force the spectator to change their way of looking at the pictures and approach also the original portraits in a different way since the traditional attitude, recognising objects and searching symbolic contents, would not help them there, either. Thus, disjoining the elements of the pictorial field and intermingling them does not only provide a new aesthetic quality but it also restructures the everyday logic of seeing-recognising-interpreting. (...) The effect of this aesthetic experience is irreversible. We would try in vain to find a way back to the comfortable but actually inauthentic attitude – missing the work of art – with which we were prone to approach the intact portraits. The two states of the pictures in the series are connected by the dynamics of irreversibility, which determines a clear-cut direction for human existence and the material world, which was created and then disintegrates into its elements. This direction determined definitively makes us enter the current of time together with the objects.

However, we should not forget that the pictures created out of the canvasses cut up and pieced together again are also portraits. They can be considered as abstract works of art only as far as we try to withdraw ourselves from their influence and strive to grasp them in aesthetic stereotypes for interpretation, so to say, regarding everything that they represent as done with. If we do not try to resist the new elements, which may seem strange at first sight, and we dare to bring our conventional attitude in play when viewing this exciting series of pictures, then the horizon of our aesthetical expectations will extend and we can develop a finer reception regarding works of art.

Disintegration – irreversibility – enrichment with new knowledge. This was the conceptual chain with which we connected the wide range of meanings of the term entropy. We may speak about physical processes, communication or reception regarding works of visual arts, entropy is a crucial concept in each case. Gyécsek József's pictures convey this world-wide concept, in which the two meanings of the statement of classical aesthetics interact with each other, namely, that the work of art reflects the universe, the whole cosmos and also the finished work of art is a totality, a sort of cosmos itself.
When we look at the faces in the paintings and their disintegrated and then rearranged forms, we are bound to consider our own place in universe and we become aware that what we see applies also to us and we realize that these portraits actually picture us.
Heidelberg, October 2008

Kovács Zoltán